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Lecture 2 : The Flight Environment

Or deriving atmospheric models

G. Leng, Flight Dynamics, Stability & Control


1.0 The Earth’s atmosphere

Question : What is the Earth’s atmosphere ?

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Question: Are the boundaries for the atmospheric regions the
same everywhere on the Earth ?

No. The Earth is not a perfect sphere.


The World Geodetic System (WGS)
models the Earth as an oblate spheroid

equatorial axis = 6,378,137.000 m


polar axis = 6,356,752.314 m

polar tropopause = 6 km
equatorial tropopause = 17 km

G. Leng, Flight Dynamics, Stability & Control


Question : Is the Earth’s atmosphere uniform ?

0 km 20 km

Air pressure (N/m2) 101 325 6000

Air density (kg/m3) 1.225 0.1

Air temperature (oC ) 30 -60

Question :Any implications for aircraft ?

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Question : So how are the boundaries defined ? By pressure, density or
temperature ?

Air temperature falls at a


constant rate in the
troposphere.

From the tropopause,


the temperature remains
constant at -60 0C until
20 km above S.L.

The lower stratosphere is


the limit for atmospheric
flight

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2.0 Aerodynamic flow parameters

Airspeeds can range from 100 – 103 m/s

For this range of speeds, airflow characteristics are determined by


2 important parameters :
1. Reynolds number Re

2. Mach number M

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2.1 Reynolds number
1. Air is “sticky” or viscous
2. From the aircraft’s viewpoint, the air at the surface is stationary

V = airspeed

normal
direction

velocity builds up
from 0 to V
aircraft surface
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3. The thin region where the air flow builds up its speed is
called the boundary layer.

4. The Reynolds number is a measure of the importance of


this viscous effect

Re = (pressure forces) / (viscous forces)

= ( V2) / (V / L)

= VL/

L : reference length  : coefficient of viscosity


 = / : kinematic viscosity
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Example : What are typical Reynolds numbers for aircraft ?
Using the F16 at S.L.

V : 360 m/s (cruise) L : 9.14 m (wing span)


 : 1.4607 x 10-5 m2/s (kinematic viscosity for air at S.L.)

Re = V L/ 

=
=

Re is typically in the region of 107 – 108 for aircraft flight.

The lower the Re, the stronger the viscous effect.


G. Leng, Flight Dynamics, Stability & Control
2.2 The Mach number
1. Air is compressible.
2. A moving aircraft disturbs the surrounding air

3.These disturbances e.g. pressure variations, take a finite time


to propagate at the speed of sound through the surrounding air
4. The Mach number measures the importance of this
compressibility effect .

M = airspeed / (speed of sound)

= V/a

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Example : What are typical Mach numbers for aircraft ?
Using the F16 at S.L.

V : 360 m/s (cruise)


a : 330 m/s (speed of sound at S.L.)

M = V/a

M is typically in the region of 0.8 – 2.0 for aircraft flight.

The higher the M, the stronger the compressibility effect.


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Classification of flow regimes via speed

• M < 0.8 subsonic incompressible aerodynamics

• 0.8 < M < 1.2 transonic localized compressibility effects

• 1.2 < M < 5 supersonic compressible aerodynamics

• M >5 hypersonic aerodynamic heating

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3.0 Atmospheric models

3.1 The equation of state


1. Pressure, density and temperature of air are related via an
equation of state
2. The equation of state for an ideal gas is :

P =  RT

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3.2 The variation of the speed of sound

1. The speed of sound varies with temperature as :

a = ( R T )1/2

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Ex : Find the temperature range within the troposphere,
i.e. h = 0 to 11 km

Hint : To convert from Centigrade to Kelvin

T (K) = 273.15 + t (0C)

Altitude (km) Temperature (oC) a (m/s)


0 15
11 -55

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Exercise : Show that

i) a = 20.06  T
ii) a = ( P/ )1/2

a = ( R T )1/2
=

ii) Hint : From the equation of state, P =  RT

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3.3 The standard atmospheric model
or how pressure, density and temperature varies with altitude

1. Recall that in the troposphere, the temperature decreases


at a constant rate with altitude i.e. dT/dh = -c = -6.51oC/km

Hence for the troposphere T = TSL - c h , or

T/TSL = 1 – (c/TSL) h

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2. Consider a small layer of air dh above an area A. The
decrease in pressure at the top is:

dh
dP =

=
A

Hence pressure and density are related by the aerostatic


equation

dP/dh =

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3. From the equation of state,  = P/(RT), hence

dP = - (g/R) dh
P TSL - c h

Integrating from sea level (h = 0), to desired altitude

P/PSL = [1 - (c/TSL) h] g / (Rc)

= ( T/TSL )5.2506

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The density variation in the troposphere is obtained as :

 / SL = ( P/PSL) / (T/ TSL)

= ( T/TSL )4.2506

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4. For the lower stratosphere, temperature is a constant = TST .
Hence the aerostatic equation simplifies to

dP/P = -g /(RTST) dh

Integrating from the tropopause (h = hST) to the desired


altitude :

P /PST = exp[ - g/(RTST) ( h- hST) ]

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The density variation with altitude in the lower stratosphere is
derived simply by :

 / ST = P / PST

= exp[ - g/(RTST) ( h- hST) ]

Why ?

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Homework

1. Derive a table of temperature, pressure, density for 0  h  20


km (at intervals of 200 m) for the equatorial atmosphere i.e.
tropopause at 17 km.

2. Compare your table for TSL = 30oC with international standard


atmosphere (ISA) tables (sea level temperature = 15oC,
tropopause at 11 km).

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